These "cute" encounters with wildlife are increasing in frequency every day. But sadly they promote the habituation of animals to people and after this sea lion pup jumped on board he was all the more likely comfortable doing it again. This is the concern of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Surprisingly, this guy -- the boat operator -- was dumb or naive enough to video tape himself petting the sea lion pup on his boat, which is a federal offense under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The law is enforced by the NMFS. (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/stories/2012/10/10_02_12mmpa_enforcment_story.html)
In a 2012 report on the death of a famous wild bottlenose dolphin, the subject of years of behavioral study, Brian Clark Howard, Editor of National Geographic News Watch said, "It is illegal to feed or approach wild [marine mammals] under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, and violators can get up to $100,000 in fines and up to one year in jail per violation. But enforcement is a challenge, given the huge size of coastal areas and the limited budgets of government agencies. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has prosecuted three dolphin harassment cases in Florida in recent months, but studies suggest many more go unreported."
In this case, the perpetrator had himself videotaped touching the sea lion and shared the footage with a news outlet, which in turn was seen widely on social media venues. I couldn't help but take notice. Marine mammal legislation and regulations are particularly strict, but the public is making it easy to prosecute people under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other wildlife laws. The public is uploading the evidence of wildlife crimes, and implicating themselves, friends and family right on to Facebook!